20 Ways to Try to Distract Yourself From Pain

Everyone needs to be distracted from time to time, whether from illness, what’s going on around them or simply from life itself. Distractions don’t take the problems away, but they might take your mind off whatever is bothering you. When you’re living with pain, learning to distract yourself from it might help. A distraction might take your mind off the pain for a few minutes or even a few hours.

We need all the help we can get when we live with chronic pain because there is not one single stand-alone solution. Pain medication and some techniques like breathing and relaxation can help but distractions play an important role too. I’m not suggesting that distractions can cure chronic pain but they can give us some breathing space.

Click here for other pain management posts

Learning to Distract Yourself From Pain Isn’t Easy

But when you are living with chronic pain, it’s not always easy to distract yourself from it. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. It’s often a game of ‘who can shout the loudest’ and pain does like to be heard. If your pain is anything like mine, it probably has a very loud voice.

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Learning to Distract Yourself from Pain

When we find a distraction that we can get really absorbed in we might be able to turn down the volume a little bit. However, we do need to accept that those distractions might only work for a short time before pain turns up the volume again. Then we need to listen to our bodies, take a break and either rest or find another distraction.

My distractions can vary depending on my pain levels. Some days I might manage to spend twenty minutes painting. But other days, I couldn’t contemplate doing that at all. I might be able to enjoy watching a favourite television show or read a chapter of a book some days but at other times I might just listen to music. If I can relax, I might be able to cope with the pain better.

My pain might keep reminding me that it’s still here but even just a few minutes of distraction from it at a time can make a huge difference.

20 ways to distract yourself from pain. Image of two rows of upright coloured pencils joining together to form a V shape.

20 Ways to Distract Yourself From Your Pain

I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite distractions. Like everything else in life, what helps one person, might not help other people. But isn’t anything worth trying when you are in pain?

1. Television

We have a multitude of channels on tv. I could spend my time watching quiz shows, dramas and wildlife documentaries, but really my favourite television distraction would be reruns of old sit-coms like Only Fools and Horses.

If you have never seen Only Fools and Horses, then you need to.

2. A – Z

This probably goes back to my childhood. During family parties at Christmas, we played A – Z games.

I now do this if I am having a bad day or struggling to sleep. It can distract me from my pain for a wee while and it gets my head into another place.

I use subjects like animals, countries, movies or song titles. Or rather than choose a specific subject, I simply look around the room and find something that starts with every letter of the alphabet. That can often mean getting creative with some letters, but (thanks to having Coeliac Disease) I always have xanthan gum in my kitchen cupboard. And I am quite partial to zesty lemon mousse, so there could be one hiding in the back of the fridge. And there’s nearly always an empty tin of Quality Street floating around somewhere. (Why are those tins always empty?)

3. Craft

Speaking of getting creative, there is nothing more distracting and satisfying than getting crafty. The internet is full of brilliant crafting ideas from macrame to origami, model making to woodworking and rock painting to flower pressing.

I enjoy making cards – birthday cards, new baby cards and anniversary cards. I start and completely lose track of the time. It would be quicker driving a shop and buying a card, but definitely not as much fun.

Besides being a distraction from your pain, handcrafted creations can make wonderful gifts which can help to save you money on birthdays and Christmas.

Click on the following links to see some crafting ideas available on amazon.

4. Movies

There’s nothing like watching an old favourite movie (or a new one) to try to take my mind off my pain. Actually, very often, I only manage half a movie, because I fall asleep! Not the fault of the movie – pain is tiring and painkillers often make me sleep.

Last night I watch a cute and lighthearted film about a pug called Patrick. I did manage to stay awake for the whole film.


What’s you favourite type of movie? Comedy, action, thriller, mystery, rom-com, horror or a good old musical?

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As well as getting unlimited, free one-day delivery, Amazon Prime members can watch all those movies and TV episodes. Also they can borrow from thousands of titles from the Kindle owners’ lending library and listen to over 2 million songs on Prime Music.

That’s a lot of distractions! To get a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime, click on the following banner.

5. Books

Whether it’s on paper, downloaded online, or even an audiobook, it’s always great to get really absorbed in a good book.

I used to enjoy visiting the library and picking up a few books, but when you live with pain, it’s not always easy to go out and do that. Aren’t we lucky to have the internet nowadays! If you look at Google Play, you will find a huge selection of books and audiobooks which you can download. Some cost next to nothing. And Project Gutenberg has over 58,000 ebooks available to download completely free of charge. And, as I wrote above, if you’re an Amazon Prime customer, you’ll have access to the Kindle owners’ lending library.

6. Music

Music – what would the world be like without music? My taste is varied. Today, my preference might be Karen Carpenter but it could be Queen or Abba tomorrow. Sometimes I need music to be loud and distracting. Other times, listening to quiet, calming music is more preferable because it helps me to relax.

7. Online games

I’ve whiled away many hours playing online games. There are so many to choose from and, the best bit, most are free to play.

Whether you play Scrabble, Tetris, or simply burst bubbles, they get your brain working, and can keep you distracted.

8. Write

Writing became a hobby for me when I had to take early retirement due to my health when I was 28. Most of my writing has never been seen by anyone else but that doesn’t matter. It’s fun, enjoyable and it’s often therapeutic.

9. Puzzles

By keeping your mind active, puzzles can be a great distraction.

Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, word searches and Sudoku are all fantastic distractions for me.

10. Learn Something New

This is one of my favourite distractions from my pain. Pain has a habit of numbing the brain. Medication numbs it even more. I believe it’s important to try to keep our brains working therefore learning something new is a worthwhile distraction.

Perhaps you could learn a new hobby? Or learn to play a musical instrument. Or you could even learn another language!

11. Blogs

Read them – there are some amazing blogs out there. I especially love travel blogs. Travel bloggers share some gorgeous photos of places I’ve never been to and probably never will go to. They allow me to travel with them from the comfort of my armchair.

Or even better, perhaps you could start a blog yourself. You could write about your health, a hobby, fashion or whatever you fancy. Absolutely anything goes. Not sure how to start a blog? Click here to learn.

12. Learn Words to a Song or Poem

I sing all the time. (Badly!!) I also sing the wrong words most of the time. But occasionally I actually google lyrics and learn the correct words. It takes time and activates your brain cells for a while.

13. Knit and Crochet

This distraction is also practical…knit winter woollies to keep yourself warm in the cold weather or make toys for children. You could even knit some winter woollies for your four-legged friends.

Click on the following links to see some ideas.

For more crochet ideas, please vistit the chronic illness blog, The Reluctant Spoonie. She has several ideas with free patterns. I love her Christmas robins.

14. Get Arty

I was talked into going to an art class a number of years ago. The teacher insisted that he could teach me to draw. And guess what? He did. If I can learn, anyone can. You might be able to find a class locally but if not, you could teach yourself with the help of books, websites, online groups or Youtube videos.

Whether you draw, paint, doodle or just colour printed pictures, you feel a sense of achievement, as well as distracting yourself from your pain for a while.

Colouring is a really popular hobby for adults and can be therapeutic. You can download some free colouring sheets from the following sites:
Art is Fun
Faber Castell
The Maven Circle

15. Looking Through Old Photos

I could lose myself for hours looking through old family photos. They bring back happy memories. I do normally find myself laughing at my old clothes and hairstyles.

16. Toys and Games

Build models, play with Rubik’s cubes or just play board games like Scrabble, chess, draughts or monopoly.

17. Call a Friend

Phone a friend for a chinwag. Or better still, get the kettle on for a cuppa and ask the friend to pop round for a visit. Always reach out when you’re struggling.

18. Youtube

Youtube is full of funny and entertaining video clips. Watch dopey dogs and crazy cats and you’ll hopefully find yourself laughing the hours away and distract your brain from the pain.

19. Walk or Exercise

Pain affects everyone differently. Exercise is difficult, if not impossible for some people but many people find it to be a good way to distract themselves from pain. Some forms of exercise can even bring pain relief for many people. Perhaps a short walk or gentle yoga would suit you?

20. Gratitude List

Pain often brings people down. Sometimes it’s nice to write a gratitude list because it can help to lift us back up.

I Hope Something Helps to Take Your Mind Off Your Pain

Living with constant pain is extremely difficult, therefore I hope that you can find ways to distract yourself from it. As I said at the start, distracting yourself from pain is not a cure, but a way of helping yourself through difficult days. Please remember to check out my other pain management posts which might help.

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51 thoughts on “20 Ways to Try to Distract Yourself From Pain

  1. Chronic pain can be made worse by stress, anxiety, and depression. Not only can our negative emotions and mental state make pain worse, but pain can make us more depressed, stressed, and anxious. Great list to help stop the vicious cycle of chronic pain and chronic depression or anxiety.

  2. Scott J DeNicola

    For me, music has always been a great distraction from most anything. Music has a way of making you forget your stress, your pain, your anxiety even if just for a brief moment. I would recommend anyone suffering from chronic pain to find themselves music that they enjoy. I’ve always found the more I focused on pain the worse it seemed to get. Any distraction is a good one. Great tips.

  3. This is a great compilation of positive distractions. I don’t live with chronic pain, but I do many of these when I’m stressed. It really helps!

  4. I find that distractions can be so important, and you do need a few options because sometimes you’re just not able to focus or do certain things (like arty stuff when you’re feeling uninspired or writing when you can’t focus and concentrate). Great suggestions! xx

    1. Thanks Caz. I look on it like a toolbox full of things to help. Every day is different. Every hour can be different! So we need to have plenty of ideas up our sleeves.

  5. Love your list! I can easily get lost in a good book. I also think that calling a friend is a great idea—so often people don’t know what kind of day you’re having and don’t want to intrude. If you call, they will know you’re up for a chat or visit.

    1. Thank you. Can’t beat a good book, can you? I often think a book is a better distraction than a movie, because we really get our head into it. A book can totally take us into another world.

      1. erica3639

        I’m working on a post about veteran suicide, because the statistics are insane. Talking to a man who spent 15 years and 7 deployments as a Marine, my question was, how do we stop those kinds of thoughts? His answer was distractions. Which made this post even more important for me to read!

        I’m good at some of these. I love music, and a good tune is something I can easily get lost in. I crochet while I watch tv, and that is easily a favorite for me. Because I can multitask (I don’t do one single task with nothing else very well) through paying attention to the tv for my mind and the crocheting keeps my hands busy at the same time.

  6. Getting creative is my favourite distraction. I tried learning to crochet once and by the time I’d managed to wrap myselp up in so many knots it was like being trapped in a spider web and I had to get a hunky firecrew to come and rescue me, my distraction was complete! Oh, ok, I made that up – except for the being crap at crochet bit! This is another great post, Liz, full of excellent suggestions.

    1. Lol, well, if you’re going to get in a knot over crocheting, you may as well have a hunky firecrew on standby – even if it is just in your imagination.
      Thanks, Trish.

  7. lforsythe7040

    These are all great ideas. When your mind is left idol that seems to be when it causes the most problems by focusing on exactly what you don’t want to focus on. Getting immersed in something you are passionate about be that writing or a good book can be a great distraction.

  8. You shared some very good ideas here! loved that! Personally, I love music, movies and books when I need a distraction.. Depending on the pain level !
    But I loved your idea of playing A-Z : it can be great with the kids! thank you it’s a great suggestion

  9. This post has come at the right time, I’ve just had a surgery and need to take it easy for a couple of weeks. Love being pampered by hubby but pain is like a pain in the butt. I don’t want to be constantly in zombie land with all the pills. I totally agree with you watching favorite movies, series on telly distracts one from the pain. I read and do online puzzles. As for learning how to knit, well would love to do that but when I’m pain free.

    1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your surgery. Post surgery pain is normally pretty bad. You always feel that you should be feeling better than you feel. Enjoy the pampering, and watch all your favourites on tv and hopefully you’ll pick up soon. Take care.

  10. J Petersberg

    I also have pain all the time. It becomes very demanding. I can distract myself with a hobby for a short time. Sometime only a few minutes, then the pain becomes too much. But I go back to the hobby after a rest. I love adult coloring books. I will look at the links you shared.

  11. Luna S

    Crafting is a great one it really helps you keep your mind off of things, I personally love painting and coloring in detailed coloring books.

  12. OK, I do most of what you put in your post. Let me tell you of my most recent distraction. I am watching the April the Giraffe while they are waiting on her newest baby to decide to show itself. I did this two years ago and boy did I get through some difficult times. I joyfully admit I am hooked on watching a graceful giraffe walk around pooping and tossing her hay.

  13. Add yoga and meditation to your list, especially “body scan meditation”…both are wonderful distractions and yoga increases blood supply to painful areas and using your breath is a fabulous coping strategy when the going gets tough. Great post!

  14. I’ve found that pain is relative so something that is no big deal to you can hurt someone else. I’ve also learned not to ignore it, usually a impending sign that something isn’t right. Great list!

  15. Music, gratitude and writing for sure are my go-tos as well. They really not only help me to distract me from the pain but also to remind me that the pain does not define me and I have so much amazing things in my life.

  16. Life sucks sometimes and pain is part of it. My coping mechanism is losing myself in trance and trying to numb myself from everything. Works fine always.

  17. Kendra | Self-Care Overload

    I loved reading this and the ideas you have are great! Everyone dealing with pain should know about these tips. Keep doing what you do, it helps!


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  19. Jennifer Carfora

    These are all useful tips for distracting yourself from pain. When I was in labor with my second son I waited too long to get an epidural. I was also induced so it magnified my labor pains! I breathed slowly and counted as I almost broke my husband’s hand LOL.

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